Step for sore puppy

Our dog Bella is about 9 years old now, and she has arthritis in at least her back hips, and I suspect her front ones are developing it as well.

So, my wife and I figured she needed some kind of step to help her get up onto her favourite chair, so this past weekend  I made her a step to help her get onto her chair.

All projects begin with some planning. Design wise, it’s pretty basic. It is just a wooden crate. Sketchup is fun and easy to use for sketching out designs like this. I began using dimensions from pine timber at Bunnings, but due to there being a surprise amount of timber needed to go into it, I decided to use what I could scrounge up around the house. Free is always good.

This is a rough cut and screw together project. There is no fine woodworking happening here!

Screwing sides together

Screwing sides together

In order to avoid bothering with trying to glue up a bunch of not completely straight pieces of timber, I went with screws. The strips of timber on the ends hold the two side pieces together. They are also decorative. Width wasn’t particularly important, and these were offcuts from ripping the timber for the thin strip on the top of the side.

On a side note, It can be a pain to rip a board that is already cut to length with a hand held circular saw, as the fence runs out of timber to guide it. It is easier to do if the board is longer than needed though.

Screwing the sides together


Sides done, now working on the top



Job done, Bella testing out the box. Apparently it makes a good pillow


For anyone interested in building something similar, Here is a picture of the sketchup drawing of my project. Please note that I made this to suit the timber I had lying around, and to match about 1/2 the hight of the chair, so if you are making this for a similar purpose, you may need to adjust your sizing to suit your chair, and the timber you are using. You could also turn this upside down, and it makes a fairly sturdy storage crate.

sketchup layout

Plant stand DIY

Long weekends are good times to do projects around the house, and at the moment we are trying to grow some stuff. Here is one of the things I made last year during a long weekend. I can’t remember which weekend it was. I need to be more efficient at posting these posts.plant stand

We had this big terracotta pot from our previous trials, and we needed a stand to get it off the ground, to make it easier to get to, and to stop Bella, our dog from digging in it. Even though she has an entire yard that she can dig in, as soon as you give her a nice pot plant to dig in, she will. if there are plants, she’ll have them out of there!

The frame is nothing spectacular, and won’t win any design awards, but it’ll hold for now.

I made the design up as I went along, cutting up a length of construction lumber, and some bits of a pallet to build it, it was all just stuff I had lying around.

Its still holding strong so far, although the lettuce we had growing in the pot has succumbed to the heat of summer. We need to find something new to try and grow in there.Plant stand close up

I think it turned out pretty well. At the very least, it performs its intended task quite well

Sandpaper storage shelf (aka, I got a saw for my birthday, and needed an excuse to cut stuff)

Here is the completed shelf in its current location.

Here is the completed shelf in its current location.

I turned another year older recently, and for my birthday, my wonderful wife bought me a Ryobi One+ battery powered circular saw.

Of course, If you get something like a saw for your birthday, you instantly need to find something to cut.

I had to sit through an entire day of work before I could play with it, so after work, I stopped off at Bunnings on the way home, and bought a couple of sheets of MDF. I had an idea to make a shelf to store my sandpaper neatly.

Every time I make something like this, I always manage to stuff up in my measurements, and this time was no different.

When measuring up the MDF for the sides of the cabinet, I seemingly picked the narrow sides, instead of the long sides.

However, I measured and cut the the top and bottom with clearance for the sides Plus the sandpaper, but the front and back only had a little extra leeway, and the paper wouldn’t fit if I added the sides in the same way.

I didn’t have enough MDF to cut 2 new sides out, so instead, I used the sides, and the bottom, but cut another top that was the width of the bottom, Plus the thickness of 2x sheets of 12mm mdf. this meant I wouldn’t eat into the size of the top shelf.

The bottom was slightly larger than the rest of the compartments, as A: I was lazy and B: I wanted to try and make a little drawer for other bits and pieces, so I got away with using the original bottom.

I cut the slots for the 3mm MDF with the saw as well. If I did something like this again, I’d probably try and get a 3mm bit for my router, as for each slot in the MDF, I had to do 2 overlapping cuts with the circular saw. A lot of people do this kind of work on a table saw, but as I don’t have one of those, and I do have the hand held circular saw, that’s what I used.

As it was, Come assembly time, I discovered I wasn’t quite accurate enough with my slots, and while some were OK, a couple were a little too tight. While trying to tap the shelves into position, I was actually driving the sides apart. with a few knocks from a mallet, and some clamping and extra glue, I managed to get things to fit up well enough again. I’ll have to be a bit more careful next time. Its all a learning experience.

So, its not exactly an action shot, but

So, its not exactly an action shot, but here is the saw after cutting the slots for the shelves

I was impressed with the performance of the saw. After a couple of hours of working with it, not working full time obvously, but working it enought that I thought I might have dropped the battery a bit, the battery was still reading fully charged on its built in meter. I think I’m going to like these 5 amp hour batteries that I bought to go with my Ryobi One+ gear.

Out of glueup, and the shelves fitted.

Out of glueup, and the shelves fitted.

Cat Climbing Tower

Recently, my wife and I embarked on a project to build a climbing tower for our cat Dizzy. After watching a show about troubled cats, we learnt that cats like to sit in high places, and overlook their domain, so we were aiming for a fairly high tower, that you just can’t buy (not without spending a lot of money anyway).

Inspired by the design at, I fired up Sketchup, and began working out what would fit best for our needs, and that resulted in a nice set of plans to guide us in construction.

The sketchup design

The sketchup design

we had an idea of what we needed, so off we went to the hardware store to get the timber and some other bits and pieces needed. It was getting late in the afternoon, so we had to hurry to get in before they closed. Returning with a car load of wood and MDF, it was time to get started.

The key to any successful project is good plans

The key to any successful project is good plans

Insert building montage here….

So we didn’t get many pictures between starting, and finished construction, so you’ll need to use your imagination to fill in the blanks. I think I need to work out a way to take time-lapses for projects like this.

From recollection, we went to the hardware store at about 3pm on sunday, and managed to have a standing cat tower by dinner time. I think we did well.

In no time, we're finished

In no time, we’re finished

As we ran out of time for the weekend, we bought the tower inside, and Dizzy got an opportunity to try out the tower unfinished for the week. She likes the 2nd highest shelf the best.

Dizzy trying out the uncovered tower

Dizzy trying out the uncovered tower

The following weekend, we had some more time, so off to the craft store to get everything to finish painting. The wood is painted with acrylic artist paint, and the shelves covered in purple fuzzy fabric. In the picture below you can see Dizzy trying out her new favourite place. We have since sat a pillow on the shelf to make it a little more comfy for her, and its now her place to sit.

Painted, covered, inside. Dizzy approves.

Painted, covered, inside. Dizzy approves.

All in all, I think we spent under $100 for everything we needed to make the tower, it was a fun project to make, and Dizzy loves it. I’d call that a success.

DIY Camera Slider

Here is the complete slider. I originally had a different head on it, but this one is much more flexible than the first.

Here is the complete slider. I originally had a different head on it, but this one is much more flexible than the first.

Video sliders are handy little things. I probably first became aware of them on Philip Bloom’s blog (which is great, if you’re into video production). They are quite effective at adding some interesting movement, and dramatic effect to shots that my otherwise be fairly static. This last week I attempted to make myself a mini camera dolly / slider with bits and pieces I had kicking around.

I began with the rails. They are made from 2 pieces of Aluminium extruded angle, maybe 2cm square. The length length was whatever they were already ( i guess about 50 – 60cm). They are screwed down to two pieces of wood, one on each end. The rails are basically done at this point. I thought it would be handy to put some sticky rubber feet on the bottom to help hold the slider in position. (The feet didn’t work the greatest, but they are better than nothing)

The ends are terribly complex things to make. A chunk of wood, and some screws, and you're done.

The ends are terribly complex things to make. A chunk of wood, and some screws, and you’re done.

The tricky part was always going to be the sliding platform. Most pro ones use bearing to roll smoothly, and effortlessly across the track. I don’t really have any bearings suitable, and while I did contemplate buying some for the task, I decided simple is best. Digging through my piles of bits and pieces, I came across some small nylon sticks. I have no idea what they are from, but they were the right size, and right price. I drilled two holes through all 8 of them in pairs (a top, and bottom piece for 4 corners), so the holes would line up properly. Then I grabbed a piece of aluminium plate which I had kicking around, and marked out holes that would match the holes drilled in the sliders. I managed to get the holes pretty spot on, and the small bolts I used just dropped right through. I tightened the bolts up until everything was held in place, but there was still enough movement of everything to slide.  At this point, I drilled a hole through the center of the aluminium base, and bolted on the tripod head (which was later swapped out for the ball head, which is pictured, and is mounted in a different spot)

Here is a close up of th sliding platform, giving a general view of how its constructed

Here is a close up of th sliding platform, giving a general view of how its constructed

Here you can see the bottom nylon sliders

Here you can see the bottom nylon sliders

The grand total of this build was $0 for me, but if you have to buy parts, obviously it will cost you more.

Below you can see a very boring, and short demo video I made last night with the slider. Not at all interesting, and as I just chucked the camera on, lighting and colour balance isn’t the greatest, so forgive me.

Is it any good?

So, do I call this project a success? well, it works, kind of. It might be fun to play with round the house, but I’m not sure I’d want to take it out in public. It certainly has its issues, and I suspect, at the very least, will need a few revisions.

There is slack in the sliding platform which lets it slop around a bit too much. I can avoid some of this by tightening the nylon sliders, but that creates too much friction and then the slider doesn’t slide very well. I am contemplating fashioning a different one, made from one or two large pieces of nylon cutting board which are grooved to fit the rails in exactly.

Also, the small bolts that I’ve used have a tendency of coming loose. The addition of a lock nut on each would probably fix. I just need to find some.

General stability is lacking, and with the DSLR mounted, its impossible to let go of  it without it falling over sideways, and smacking the camera lens into the ground, which we all can agree that that is a bad idea. The slider could definitely do with some wider legs, and I’ll be looking into that shortly too.

Project CB250: getting started

Over the weekend, I made a little start to my project bike. I pulled some of the bits and pieces off the back of the bike. The picture below is shows proof that I’m keen to get started on this build.

Getting startedIdeas:

I began, like everyone does these days,  looking at bikes online. Initially,  I found a couple of CB250 about,  but nothing super special. Actually they were fairly ordinary I thought. They still looked like chopped up CB250s, and were not what I was thinking at all. But when I started thinking more seriously, I actually found a few more modded bikes for inspiration. The net is full of other bikes for inspiration these days. I want to do a post at some point that has other CB250 builds in it which I’ve found, that has helped inspire me.

Everything up front:

The handlebars are going to be one of the first things to get swapped. Its just got to happen. Once I get some clip ons on there, I’ll need to fit all the controls of course. For now, I’ll keep using the current leavers etc… but they are all a bit rough, and at some point I’d like to think about trying to re-finish them, or replace everything (Switches included) with after market gear. For now, They can stay original though.
After handle bars, there are the gauges, and the headlight. Both are a bit scraped up from some kind of drop at some point (not me). I’m thinking of either going a compact digital LCD system, or maybe a single all in one gauge for the instruments.
Regarding the headlight, I’m interested in trying out some LED headlights I’ve seen online. They seem neat. I just like the idea of the LEDs, and think it would be fun to play with.
Original mirrors are already gone, and will be replaced by ones that go in the ends of the handle bars. That’s what I’m thinking at this point anyway.

Replacement tank:

This is going to be key in making the bike look different. I’m trying to get away from it screaming CB250!!! I don’t have a tank yet, and I don’t really have an idea for a tank. I’m hoping I’ll be able to source something fairly easily  and relatively quickly, as I don’t want to get too far into anything else before I have the tank worked out. Getting a tank is going to be pivotal to developing things like the seat.


The seat is where I foresee the most work being involved for this part of the build. I’m thinking a relatively flat seat, with a fairly simple “loaf of bread” style upholstery. Its fitting the seat, and deciding if its better to leave some of the existing under-seat brackets and bits, or to remove or modify them for the task. This will be the no turning back moment. Everything else I’ve planned is reversible (well, depends on what will be needed to do the tank I guess). This is commitment time.  Actually, I’m not that scared of committing. I just want to make sure I have an action plan and have it ready to go, so I know exactly what I’ve got to do to make it ridable. I don’t want to end up with a bike stuck, than no longer can take the original seat, but also doesn’t have a new seat that can go on it!


Now, this is where things can get tricky, I’m fairly limited in my ability to to full on work to the engine. The bike has done about 93,000km, its probably getting close to needing some work done internally. Some stuff which I can do myself I’ll give it a go.
Sometime, I want to pull  the engine out of the frame, so I can clean it up, and clean the frame up, and paint it all up. I like the look of the engine with black engine enamel, and polished edges on the cooling fins, so that will be my goal for that. Painting the engine while its out is probably the best thing to do.
At this time, I’m not sure if I should paint most of the engine, or try polishing some of the covers as well. The problem with polishing, is there are a few dings which are pretty deep, and may not polish out so well. Then again, they may not paint over so easily either.
I don’t know if engine work will make it into Iteration One of the project.


No plan to do too much to the actual frame of the bike. As stated above, a few under seat brackets will get the chop, and I need to work out how to close in the ends of the chassis, probably a semicircular pipe the same diameter of the frame, bolted, or welded to the frame. Below is a picture from CafeRacerAustralia of what may need to be done to the bike.

Something like this may need to be done to my bike

Something like this may need to be done to my bike

Exhaust :

The current exhaust is a bit rough. It is scratched up, and has a few pinholes in it (as you can see from that black splatter patch under the bike in the photo). I am thinking very serious about making a custom exhaust for the bike at some point. There are a couple of ways I’m thinking of going right now. Option one is probably the easiest, and will basically follow the current exhaust, but with a new muffler, maybe a non cone shapes one, which is parallel to the ground. A lot of the other modded cb250’s seem to keep the exhaust fairly similar, to the point where I think they are just painting the current exhaust, or swapping the muffler for a different one. Option Two is to re-route the exhaust, so it kicks up high. Not sure if this involves kicking the exhaust up just where the muffler begins, or completely re routeing the exhaust. But no stress right now, that will be some time away I think. For Iteration One of the project, it will be donning a wrapped exhaust, with a High Temp painted muffler to hide some of the scratches in the current pipes.

That is already a fair stack of work to do. On top of this, there will always things that pop up along the way to do. I’m going to keep planning, and hopefully soon, I’ll have a neat little bike to ride around on.

CB250 Custom: The Beginning

The starting point. a 1998 Honda CB250, with 92,000km on the clock. Nothing special about this little guy

The starting point. A 1998 Honda CB250, with 92,000km on the clock. Nothing special about this little guy

A Spare Bike

With the addition of the Honda Firestorm to the ranks of vehicles at our abode, I found myself wondering what to do with the O’l Honda CB250 I’ve been riding for the last 5 or so years. The logical thing, of course, is to sell the bike. That was the original plan when I got the new bike.

The bike is OK, it runs pretty well, and has been a reliable bike over the time I’ve had it. However, a year or so ago, I noticed it has a relatively small oil leak around the cylinder head. I’m not entirely sure if that’s a sign of future failure or not, But I’d feel bad selling the bike to someone, and having it die on them shortly afterwards, even if it was just $1000 for a bike with almost 100,00km on the clock. One possible solution for this is to re-torque the bolts holding the head on. That MAY fix it. I’ll probably give it a go in the event I get the engine out of the frame. Otherwise, its going to require a lot more effort, the removal of the head, and probably a bunch of proper mechanic-ing, which would be fun, but I think is probably beyond my skills right now. It would be interesting to know the state of the internals of the engine though…

The Project Begins

With that in mind, and my interest in getting my hands dirty, I thought this might be an opportunity for a project to have some fun with, and learn some things I wouldn’t do to my main every day runner.

First things first, this bike will be as close to 100% done by myself. Its going to be a learning experience.  I’m confident I’ll be able to handle most of the non engine related work that I can forsee, and hopefully will be able to have a go at doing some deeper mechanicals on the engine itself. Also, by doing things myself, and not throwing things at a shop to do, I’ll be able to save money. This is going to be a budget build, and I’d much rather do something myself, investing my own time into it, then buying something off the shelf, or paying someone to do stuff.

Speaking of time, this is going to be a slow project. The plan is to make this bike a summer rider. 3 months rego over summer gives me 9 months of of f time to do serious stuff between seasons. That is, after this year. I am giving myself  until November / December this year to try and get Iteration One one the road.

A Plan in the Sand

Now, I have an idea for a  project. What am I actually going to do? CHANGE EVERYTHING! that’s what. As I write this, The ideas keep expanding, as I think of things to do / change. This list is by no means exhaustive, and I’m not locking myself into doing all of them straight up. Some of the more involved things may have to appear in future revisions of the project (or never at all). Cost is also a consideration. some stuff will be more expensive than other stuff, so that will also influence what gets done, and when. (as I said before, this is a cheapskate project, so the cheaper stuff will get done first)

  • Clip on handle bars – Probably my starting point. shouldn’t be too difficult. I hope.
  • Fuel Tank swap – This will need to be done before much else happens. It probably should be done before the handlebars even.
  • Custom seat – Wood, metal, fibreglass, with leather or  vinyl upholstery. Hopefully I’ll endup with a basic, but classy looking seat.
  • Chain and sprockets – These needs doing anyway
  • Fork Gaiters – A relatively simple addition that adds a lot of attitude to a bike
  • LED blinkers – something lower profile, and a little more custom I’m thinking.
  • Custom style brake/clutch leavers – The leavers on the bike now are a bit beat up, so something nice and shiny would be cool
  • Replacement gauges – either a digital unit, or an all in one analogue gauge unit. will probably be decided what I can find nice and cheap, that still fits the bill.
  • Removal of Air box / Fitting Pod filter – Looks. If I can find a way to make the air box look better, it would mean I could leave it, and reduce the need to have the bike tuned.
  • Exhaust Wrap – It looks pretty cool, having heat shield wrap around the pipes on the bike. I think I’ll be going with this on the bike!
  • Painted Muffler – The current exhaust is a bit beat up. If I tidy it up with the above wrap, and some high temp paint on the cans, it might look pretty cool until I can do:
  • Custom Exhaust – This might be tricky, but the rewards would be satisfying. Looking at some neat exhaust that I’ve fabricated myself.
  • Led headlights – I didn’t realise that LEDs had progressed so far as to be usable in headlights, but they apparently have, which is pretty cool
  • Make custom chain guard – You’ve got to keep things out of the chain, and the old plastic just won’t do.
  • Metal rear fender – Again, the original plastic just won’t cut it for this. Something neat, and worthy will have to go on the rear!
  • Clutch to hydraulics – This would be a bit of a “because I can” thing.  doesn’t look too hard, but the kits I can find are either really cheap,or really expensive.
  • Re-painting of everything painted – Its going to need to get some fresh paint (or powder coating for suitable things like the frame)
  • Painting of the Engine – I like the look of the black painted engines, with the edges of the fins polished up. High temp paint will have to cover this guy
  • Polishing of engine parts – To contrast the black of the engine, some engine parts and covers may be polished. It will depend on the state of most covers how much gets painted vs polished.

Documentation Starts Here

I plan, through out the project, to to keep the world updated on how this progresses. This will happen primarily on this blog, and likely through a forum post at the CanberraRiders forum. Direct link will come just as soon as I get it sorted. I plan on taking lots of photos through out. The photos will have dual purposes, to held document the project, and to help me remember where everything goes when its time to put it back together.

I thought it might be nice to have some video documentation of the project. This may a series of progress report videos, or a single video at the end of it all, or both. I haven’t decided how exactly I’ll do this, but I’ve been meaning for a while to get into producing some videos. I mean, I probably should do something to use the media degree that I’m half way through completing. If the videos happen, I don’t want them to be the usual webcam quality stuff you see all over YouTube. I’ll be aiming for a reasonable level of quality from it.

Well, that’s probably enough for one epic post of Ideas, and some very rough plans on what I’m thinking of doing. Now just to start doing! Expect some more thought posts as I continue actually doing some proper planning, and get some spanners out to get my hands dirty.